They met in the caterpillar colony, under the shade of a broad leaf.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m shooting spitballs at butterflies.” he responded.
She seemed puzzled. “The butterflies are beautiful and free. Why are you shooting spitballs at them?”
He shrugged. “They’re not any better than we are. And when I hit one, it proves just how fragile they really are. Butterflies aren’t any more special than you are.”
She liked the sound of that, and she crawled over and sat by him.
Time passed. Friends would come and then go.
“You’ve been around a long time,” they’d say. “Yeah, I like being a caterpillar,” he’d say. People can go and be butterflies if they want to, but I like it here on the ground.”
“I want to be a butterfly one day and be free,” said the friend.
“You can be whatever you want to be,” said the caterpillar. Later on, they’d see their friends shedding their cocoons and flying off. “Do you think they’re prettier when they fly?” asked his young friend.
“Nah, they’re alright, but they’re not you.” She liked the sound of that and decided to stay a caterpillar another day.
“Wow. It’s really great up there,” the friends would say when they’d stop off on the leaf for a visit. “Views for days, and when it’s warm out the wind feels great under our wings.”
“That’s cool,” said the other caterpillar. But he saw his young friend beside him look longingly at the colorful butterfly wings.
After the butterfly took off, he looked at her. “They’re no better than you are, you know. Just because they can fly now and have pretty colors. You’re great as a caterpillar. In fact, you’re even BETTER this way.”
And that was the last time she ever thought about building her own cocoon. Instead, she’d curl up contentedly each morning beside him and watch the world from a leaf, never from the sky.
“What are you doing?” she asked him one morning.
“Shooting spitballs at butterflies.”
“But that was our friend.”
“We’re caterpillars. We don’t have butterfly friends. They can’t be trusted.”
Minutes later, she was rolling up spitballs, too.